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The mission of the North American Forum (NAF) is to create the political and conceptual basis for increased cooperation among countries and across sectors.

Background:

Since 2005 the North American Forum (NAF) has brought together thought leaders from Canada, Mexico and the United States in order to advance a shared vision of North America so as to contribute to improved relations among the three neighbors. The NAF was founded by several members of an independent, trinational task force formed by the Council of Foreign Relations, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales that together published a report earlier that year entitled, Building a North American Community. For the United States, a key NAF champion was former U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz.

Since its inception, NAF has sought to bring together its members annually to explore the interactions among the mutually reinforcing goals of security, prosperity and enhanced quality of life. The NAF identifies actions that governments and private actors can take to help build societal resilience so that the three countries can avoid shocks when possible—be they natural or man-made—and withstand and rebound from shocks when necessary. NAF members are selected based on their commitment to the NAF’s goals and their ability to effect positive change.

Over the years, NAF has sought to: a.) encourage experts to envisage a regional approach to security, prosperity and improved quality of life; b.) encourage an approach to conceiving and addressing problems that crosses disciplinary, sectoral and national boundaries; c.) identify steps to be taken by private actors, including commercial actors as well as civil society leaders, to build resilience in the North American continent; d.) prompt policymakers to think imaginatively about opportunities for future cooperation; and e.) expose both private actors and governmental policy-makers to the rationale and the opportunities for cooperation. The NAF has Co-Chairs representing each of the three countries in North America.

NAF 2.0:

After serving as the NAF’s U.S. partner for seven years and following the passing of its key U.S. champion, Secretary George Schultz, the Hoover Institution has decided to transition its role as US Secretariat to another U.S. institution.  The decision by Hoover comes at a pivotal moment in the relationship between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

In an effort to carry forward the mission of the NAF, the Institute of the Americas (IOA) and the UC San Diego School of Global Policy & Strategy (GPS) will  assume the role as US Coordinators of the NAF working in close collaboration with counterpart institutions in Canada (Carleton University) and Mexico (Universidad de Monterrey).

Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon Jr., the former U.S. Under Secretary of State, Senior Advisor for Arnold & Porter and IOA Board Member now serves as the U.S. NAF Chair. Ambassador Shannon’s counterpart Chairs are: Jaime Zabludovsky Kuper, President of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations and Goldy Hyder, President & CEO of the Business Council Canada. 

The Opportunity

Since the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, Canada, the United States and Mexico have each experienced profound economic, political, social and technological changes that have forever re-shaped relations with their neighboring countries and prompted a re-thinking of trilateral relations. Historic events (including 9/11 and the war on terrorism, the emergence of China as an economic super power, the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as climate change) have also played a role in re-mapping geopolitical priorities for all three countries.

Today, North American cooperation and integration are under threat from domestic, regional and international fissures. There is also an increasing focus on self-sufficiency to: reduce uncertainties, deepen security, and better compete in the industries of the future. Here, governments are reconsidering the depth and breadth of their partnerships in trade and security. This evolving re-alignment will have consequences to North America’s economic and political interests over time.

On November 17, 2021, U.S. President Biden, Mexican President Lopez Obrador and Canadian Prime Minster Trudeau met in Washington, D.C. for the first North American Leader’s Summit in six years. The three leaders pledged to take concrete actions to, among other things, end the COVID-19 Pandemic and advance global health, foster competitiveness and create the conditions for equitable growth, as well as coordinating a regional response to migration. A commitment was also made towards combatting transnational crime and terrorism and expanding defense collaboration. Through the North American Defense Ministerial (NADM) the three countries made shared commitments in the areas of regional defense, security cooperation, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance. The North American Leaders also “committed to trilateral stakeholder outreach as an integral feedback loop with the private sector, civil society, and others.”

With the next North American Leader’s Summit scheduled in Mexico City in December 2022, an opportunity exists to engage the private sector, academia and civic society in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico in new ways to re-envision an agenda for North America to address the continent’s emerging regional economic, societal, environmental and security-related challenges. Here, the NAF has the potential to help promote policy agendas in our respective countries that will encourage expanded trinational cooperation to respond the needs of our changing times on issues related to economic competitiveness; energy, the environment and climate change; regional security and trinational cooperation in the Americas.

NAF Programming:

The next meeting of the North American Forum will be on November 14-15, 2022
in La Jolla, CA hosted by the Institute of the Americas and the UC San Diego School of Global Policy & Strategy.